Environmental valuation involves political choices that must be justified.
To know what do stakeholders and decision makers want in a valuation process, and what would 'best practice' valuation look like, indigenous Māori custodians and local environmental and commercial stakeholders, as well as local and central government officials involved in marine decision making, were interviewed in New Zealand's Marlborough Sounds region. While government officials desired a prescription for 'best practice' valuation that was comprehensive and transparent, local Māori and stakeholders were more concerned with how valuation exercises had the effect of promoting some interests over others. In particular, they were concerned with how valuation (1) is subject to influence from vested actors and interests, (2) is constrained by legal interpretations, (3) gives weight to 'experts' over local knowledge, and (4) excludes locals from the decision-making table. These four propositions can help identify the choices to be made so that valuation researchers and practitioners can take responsibility for these choices as they design and conduct valuation to inform decision making.